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Judge says Fox News’s parent company must face defamation lawsuit

A Delaware judge on Tuesday said that Fox News’s parent company must face a defamation lawsuit from Dominion Voting Systems, ruling that the election company’s allegations that Rupert and Lachlan Murdoch intentionally pushed election lies had enough merit to move the case forward.

Delaware Superior Court Judge Eric M. Davis ruled in December that Dominion’s $1.6 billion lawsuit could proceed against Fox News. The new decision denied a separate motion to dismiss the lawsuit from Fox Corporation, which is run by its chairman, Rupert Murdoch, and his son, CEO Lachlan Murdoch.

According to Davis, Dominion has sufficiently argued that the parent company may also be liable for pushing falsehoods claiming Dominion rigged the 2020 presidential election against then-President Donald Trump and in favor of now-President Joe Biden.

“Rupert and Lachlan Murdoch allegedly made a ‘business calculation’ to spread former President Trump’s narrative through Fox News even though they did not personally believe it,” Davis wrote, citing Dominion’s filings. “Thus, Fox Corporation’s employees and officers allegedly had ‘direct responsibility’ for airing the statements about Dominion.”

At the same time, Davis removed Fox Broadcasting, the entity that runs, as a defendant in the case, saying Dominion’s lawsuit was overly speculative about its role in perpetuating lies about its role in the election.

In legal filings, Dominion cited media reports saying Fox News “sought and gained the direct approval of Rupert and Lachlan Murdoch before calling Arizona for Biden” — an election night victory that drastically narrowed Trump’s chances of victory. In the subsequent days, Fox News viewership plummeted dramatically while more fringe right-wing media organizations, Newsmax and One America News, gained popularity as they denied the reality of Biden’s victory.

“Dominion alleged the executives of Fox Corporation believed Fox News would benefit if it endorsed former President Trump’s election fraud narrative and suffer if it did not; thus, the executives of Fox Corporations ‘pressur[ed]” Fox News to “lure the Fox audience back home’ and ‘encouraged’ on-air personalities to perpetuate false claims about Dominion; and Fox Corporation ‘rewarded’ those at Fox News who complied with the alleged instructions and ‘punished’ those who did not,” Davis wrote, summarizing Dominion’s arguments.

Davis also noted that The Wall Street Journal and the New York Post, two other media organizations under the Murdoch family’s control, “condemned President Trump’s claims and urged him to concede defeat,” which supports “a reasonable inference that Rupert and Lachlan Murdoch either knew Dominion had not manipulated the election or at least recklessly disregarded the truth.” Dominion, Davis wrote, had sufficiently argued that Rupert and Lachlan Murdoch acted with “actual malice” and should be subject to factual discovery in Dominion’s defamation case.

The decision comes as the House of Representatives continues to hold hearings over the January 6 insurrection, where a mob of pro-Trump rioters sought to stop Congress from certifying the 2020 election results.

On Tuesday, election workers in Georgia testified about being terrorized by Trump supporters who believed they played a role in falsifying results, and the Republican speaker of the Arizona state House said Trump’s lawyer Rudy Giuliani knew there wasn’t evidence for election manipulation.

The Tuesday court decision raises the stakes for Fox News’s legal battles over 2020 election falsehoods. Dominion’s lawsuit is set to go to trial on April 2023. The company is separately facing a $2.7 billion lawsuit from Smartmatic, a rival election technology company also ensnared in election conspiracy theories, which is moving forward in New York.

Fox News has argued that the lawsuits against it amount to an “assault on the First Amendment.” A representative for Fox Corporation did not immediately respond to Insider’s request for comment.

Dominion and Smartmatic have also filed lawsuits against other media organizations and entities over election conspiracy theories, including Newsmax, One America News, Giuliani, Sidney Powell, and MyPillow CEO Mike Lindell. Business Insider

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